Tickets are now on sale for the Hobart and William Smith Colleges spring production of the classic Tennessee Williams’s play “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, Williams’s powerful tale about the Southern belle Blanche Dubois, her sister Stella and her blue-collar brother-in-law Stanley, will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 9, 10 and 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Bartlett Theater.
Since Hatch joined the HWS faculty in 2010, the No. 1 play that students and faculty have asked him to direct has been “A Streetcar Named Desire” — though he admits that as a director, he is typically drawn to “plays from some of those great older playwrights who wrote between, say 1550 and the French Revolution.”
“I love Shakespeare, and Marivaux, and Lope de Vega and their contemporaries. So, ‘The Game of Love and Chance’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ were indicative of those interests. I also like very new, edgy pieces and that is where the choice of DNA came from,” Hatch says, noting the previous plays he’s directed on campus. “I thought that now that I had established my identity as a director on campus a little bit, it was now perhaps an appropriate time to venture out of my comfort-zone and try tackling a play that so many people on campus wanted to see produced on campus.”
Why such eagerness surrounding this particular play?
“This was one of the first questions I had to ask myself when I was considering this play,” Hatch says. “Why do people like it so much? It is honestly the script? Or is it the ‘mythology’ that surrounds the script. Do people love this play or do they love the movie? Do they love the words or do they love those classic images of a young Marlon Brando in a tight tank top?”
Hatch says Williams’s play “is a lot like ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet’,” insofar as audiences tend to come to “Streetcar” with an idea of “what it is and what it maybe should be before they even read it or see it.” However, he adds, “once you strip away that mythology you start to see a really well-crafted text. And I also think throughout the last 70 years, the social issues of the given time could often be seen in the plights of at least one of the three characters; Stanley, Stella, or Blanche. Is this a play about old ways vs. new ways? Is it a play about blood family vs. chosen family? Is it a play about what happens when we enter an environment with a different vocabulary than our own in terms of morals, communication, and ideals? This play can be so many things.”
Michelle Feda ’15, the production’s dramaturg, has worked with and on behalf of the cast and crew to research and distill the world of 1947 New Orleans, and how Williams’s world compares to today’s.
As a dramaturg, Feda began researching the language and history of “Streetcar” to help the actors understand the culture of the time. “My goal is to provide as much information as I can to help the actors create fully realized characters,” says Feda, who has written essays and glossary entries to help the actors discover the drive of the play and its contemporary implications.
This work has served to bolster one of Hatch’s goals with the production: to ensure the HWS version was not “some copy of how it was done in the 1940s,” Hatch says. “I didn’t go out and cast the two people who reminded me the most of Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. I think we have done a good job of creating our ‘Streetcar.’ What is this play to us, at HWS, in the year 2015? How is this play about today? I think the team has done a good job of finding that.”
In this production, attempting to avoid the danger of making “any of the three main characters the obvious hero or the obvious villain,” Hatch hopes the audience is moved to “really care and relate to all three of the main characters,” as well as to be “conflicted, annoyed, or enraged by the actions of all three. I think we achieve that and I think it makes the play very human….We are forced to dig deeper into the story, the personalities, and the conflict. I hope the result is that we leave the production with much more layered and nuanced conclusions about the characters.”
Tickets are on sale now at the HWS College Store and at Area Records for $5.? A limited number of free student vouchers are available at the bookstore with an HWS Student ID.